CLEARWATER, Fla.—It's been an ugly two days for Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish committed four errors and gave up 17 hits in an 11-1 loss Friday to an Illinois team that was playing its first game of the season. Then today, Notre Dame made three more errors and allowed 12 hits in a 10-2 loss to Ohio State.
Irish starter Brian Dupra breezed through the first inning, but his defense betrayed him in the second. Notre Dame infielders botched a routine double-play ball and failed to catch a simple throw across the diamond, resulting in a bases-loaded, no-out situation. Dupra did a good job minimizing the damage, getting a double play and a ground out to limit the Buckeyes to two runs.
But Dupra seemed flat when he returned in the third, and Ohio State's aggressive hitters spent the next two innings lacing hard line drives into the gaps. Dupra worked at 88-91 mph with his fastball—when he's at his best he sits in the low 90s and touches the mid-90s—and did not have good feel for his breaking ball. Center fielder Michael Stephens led the barrage for the Buckeyes, going 4-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. His RBI double in the fourth, on the heels of Cory Kovanda's two-run triple, chased Dupra and made it 8-0.
"They booted the ball a little bit, but I thought offensively our hitters took advantage of it," Ohio State coach Bob Todd said. "A couple of those balls were hit pretty good and we were able to get some runs off it. Obviously when you're ahead 6-0, 8-0, your hitters are more relaxed."
Todd said he was encouraged by Stephens' strong start after he scuffled out of the gate last year.
"Coming out of a Caliornia junior college, he'd really never practiced indoors," Todd said. "Last year it took him three weeks to a month to really adjust to taking batting practice, hitting indoors in cages to then being able to hit outside. He's trying to do a better job with that, and it's only the second week, but it looks like he's starting to swing the bat better."
Meanwhile, Notre Dame's beleaguered bats could not solve Ohio State junior righthander Dean Wolosiansky. A physical strike-thrower at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Wolosiansky is not overpowering or flashy, but he pounded the zone with an 87-90 mph fastball and mixed in a decent mid-70s breaking ball. Wolosiansky kept Notre Dame off the board until the sixth. He in all, he allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three over six strong innings.
"He was able to pitch ahead, he had a little movement on his fastball," Todd said. "For five innings there he had a shutout, and then he got a little tired."
Like Louisville yesterday, Ohio State has shown it can win games in a variety of ways. The Buckeyes won a pitcher's duel against South Florida behind ace Alex Wimmers on Friday, and today they let their bats do the heavy lifting behind the steady Wolosiansky.
The Buckeyes entered the season with high hopes for themselves, and it's easy to see why. They're a strong, veteran college baseball team.
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